This week, our favourite cafes and coffee shops are introducing an abundance of winter warmers to their menus. Here’s everything you need to know.
As the leaves turned brown and crunched underfoot, we rejoiced as autumnal classics, like the infamous Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte, took their rightful places on the shelves.
But if autumn was the warm-up, then winter is the main event, with Christmas flavours finally coming out to play and sweet treats getting even more indulgent.
To get you in the mood for all the delicacies that come hand-in-hand with the best time of the year, we’ve picked our favourite winter offerings from all the eateries decorating your high-street below – now, bring us some figgy pudding, and bring it right here!
Marks & Spencer
As anyone who works near an M&S will know, lunch times really ramp up a notch come winter time, thanks to the store’s festive sandwich launch.
Previous favourites have included the Turkey Feast (£3.50), which is basically a miniature Christmas dinner cosied up between two soft slices of bread (and don’t worry, it’s back this Christmas).
This year, however, we’ve got the Mustard Crusted Beef Roll (£4.50) pegged as a winner, more so because it comes with an actual separate pot of ‘crunchy Yorkshire pudding scraps’.
The collection doesn’t just favour meat-eaters though, and there is a range of pescatarian, veggie and even the retailer’s first vegan option, to make sure everyone gets their dose of festive fun. And we have to say, the Chestnut Roast Wrap (£2.80) and Lobster & Prawn Thermidor Brioche Roll (£5) sound like pure heaven.
We’re expecting big things from the brand that gave us the Pumpkin Spiced Latte, and thankfully, they haven’t let us down.
In a surprising, not-so-festive twist, the coffee chain will be introducing a Poached Egg & Hollandaise Croissant Roll (£3.59) to its Christmas menu which, we have to admit, sounds incredible. Joining it will be a Three Cheeses & Cranberry Panini (£4.25) which is filled with brie, cheddar and mozzarella cheese, béchamel and cranberry sauce.
For those craving something a little more traditional, check out the Turkey Club Thin Flatbread (£3.59) which sees sliced turkey and Emmental cheese layered with crunchy slaw and stuffing mayo, all served on a malt flatbread.
Moving on to the good stuff: Starbucks are known for nothing if not their sugared baked goods - so what are they bringing to the table this year?
We’re already drooling thinking about the Truffle Loaf Cake (£1.99), with dark chocolate chips, milk chocolate buttercream topping, white chocolate stars and a dusting of sweet icing sugar ‘snow’. Others to try include the White Chocolate and Raspberry Bundt Cake (£2.29), Danish Almond Star (£2.29) and Christmas Tree Brownie (£1.99).
When Costa announced it was turning its back on Santa in favour of a ‘bit of naughtiness’ this Christmas, we had no idea how deliciously naughty it would get.
Let’s just say, one look at the drinks menu of the self-proclaimed ‘nation’s favourite coffee shop’, and you’ll be hit with a sugar rush that will stay with you long past the 25 December.
Headlining the hot beverage board will be the Billionaires Hot Chocolate (£3.35), which includes layers of caramel sauce, topped off with freshly whipped cream and shortbread crumbs.
And joining it is the return of some of Costa’s Christmas classics, such as the Gingerbread and Cream Latte (£3.30), Honeycomb Latte (£3.30), Mint Hot Chocolate (£3.35) and, the one we’re most excited about, the Lindt hot chocolate (£3.35).
If you still need to prove your worth on Santa’s “nice” list, however, you might want to leave your pudding ‘til afters. For those looking to tuck into something hearty, top picks include a Festive Pigs in Blanket Panini (£3.95) or the Creamy Brie, Smoked Bacon & Cranberry Panni (£3.95).
You can currently only find this chain of artisan bakeries in London, Hove and Oxford, but we felt that their winter menu was essential information for those lucky enough to be near one.
After all, there is something wonderfully light, yet still filling, about the seasonal menu at GAIL’s.
To welcome the winter months, the bakery have held onto our obsession with pumpkins and included them in a suitably sophisticated dish, the Lamb & Beef Kofta, Spicy Pumpkin Puree & Winter Vegetable Couscous (£6.50). Vegetarians looking to get their fill of the festive delicacies will be appeased by the Quinoa, Wild Rice and Winter Veg topped off with Tahini Dressing (£4.80).
And if you’re craving a sweet treat, tuck into a Christmas Bun (£3.00) and let your mouth be filled with spiced almond frangipane, chocolate crumbs, cinnamon, candied orange zest & vanilla, all iced with orange & crème fraiche.
Northern favourite Greggs doesn’t disappoint when it comes to comfort food at any time of year, so we can only dare to hope what they have in store for us this Christmas. In fact, we’re almost more excited about their winter warmers than a visit from Santa.
The snack that has just about everyone perched on the edge of their seats in anticipation is the infamous Festive Bake (£1.50), which is returning after becoming a roaring success last year. The bake is filled with chicken, sage and onion stuffing and sweetcure bacon in a creamy, cranberry sauce and even has its own website to keep eager customers up to date with when it will be hitting stores.
If the reality of your Christmas dinner being over 50 days away feels too hard to bear, you might find solace in either the Christmas lunch sandwich (from £3.00) or the Christmas lunch toastie (from £3.00) – both delicious, and both stuffed with turkey and all the trimmings.
We’re talking sliced turkey with pork, onion and sage stuffing, smoky sweetcure bacon, cranberry and port sauce in white bread topped with béchamel sauce, grated edam and mature cheddar cheese. The only difference is the sandwich is cold and not quite as cheesy.
Available from 9 November
For a French spin on Christmas that will have you saying ‘Oh la la’ rather than ‘Ho Ho Ho’, you need to get yourself to PAUL.
This year the artisan bakery is introducing a selection of not une, not deux, but trois (read: three, for those who skipped French GCSE) freshly baked, gourmet baguettes.
All three have been crammed full of festive delights, designed to warm both your hearts and your tummies.
The Dinde de Noël (£4.65) was voted the best Christmas sandwich in London by Time Out in 2016 and now it’s back. The sage and onion baguette is studded with cranberries, sliced turkey, smoky bacon, spinach, cream cheese and horseradish.
The Cosy Christmas Pig Sandwich (£4.50) is PAUL’s take on the traditional pigs in blankets. An artisan apricot and sage baguette is filled with Lincolnshire sausage and bacon, layered with spinach and freshly sliced apple with a sweet apple chutney.
The bakery’s vegan option comes in the form of The Merry Veggie Sandwich (£4.25). The roasted spiced pumpkin and rosemary baguette is generously filled with radicchio, grilled courgette and carrot, fresh spinach and crispy onion, with warming beetroot and horseradish compote.
Available from 7 November
Now that you well and truly know your options, you’re free to nibble your way through all the Christmas menus over the next few months. What could be merrier than that?
Images: Courtesy of brands